Автор: Sadiri Joy Tira
Category: Эмигрантские общины, Средства информации и технологии
My doctors have declared cakes and other good tasting things anathema to my diet. But in the fall of 2002, I found myself on a kingdom island, in one of the world’s Limited Access Regions (LAR), eating cakes and pastries of a quality I had never tasted before, to my stomach’s delight.
This unique situation presented itself one night after a worship service of Filipino believers working on the island. The pastor had just pronounced the benediction after a rather lengthy service. Having just preached I was quite hungry and was anticipating my ride back to my hotel where I could avail myself to the excellent buffet service there, when I was invited to stay late for the evening meal and fellowship with the congregation members. As usual the Filipinos were punctuating the worship service with a time of extended fellowship over a potluck feast. The ensuing meal is almost a requisite in Filipino gatherings, so I decided to stay and was content to eat whatever vegetarian dishes were available (and might I say, in Filipino gatherings, the vegetarian selection is few and far between). While the others were eating great rich dishes of meats, I finished off my plate of steamed rice and pinakbet, a Filipino vegetable stew.
For dessert I started to look around for a banana, the one sweet thing my doctors have deemed safe for me to eat, but I was stopped by the pastor and his wife who had a dish of pastries in hand. “Try this, Pastor Joy” they said. To which I replied my well-practiced “I pass. A banana is enough. It is good for me. I’m fine. Thank you.” Again, they said, “No Pastor Joy. You must try this. Even a little bit of it. It is the best in the kingdom.” “I can’t,” again I protested. Seconds later they returned with a shy middle-aged man with a boyish face, still with pastry plate in tow.
“Pastor Joy, you must try the pastries, our friend here, we’ll introduce him to you, baked them. This guy here is the King’s baker, and these goodies are from the King’s very own palace. These pastries are the best Pastor Joy. You must try them now or we, and he, will be offended.”
There was no way I could back out now, so out went the doctors’ orders, and in went the baking. It was a good thing that my ever-watchful wife was not there to stop me. The pastries were indeed delicious! So I had one of each type of pastry that night, and seconds and thirds too! I even took some back to my hotel. It really was the best in the land! I left the Filipino shindig with the impressive thought: “that guy was really the King’s baker! How he is like Nehemiah, the Jewish cupbearer for a Babylonian king, serving in a modern king’s palace!”
Two years later in May 2004, I would return to that island kingdom to preach in the same church. This time I planned to sit down with the king’s baker and I planned to ask how he came from a little town in the Philippines to the palace of a king. In response to my invitation he arrived at my hotel with his niece, and with a bag of scrumptious banana bread. The story that he would share with me is described in this writing with his permission.
Journey To The Palace
Luis was born in the summer of 1950 in Toledo, Aklan, in the central Philippines. He lived in his hometown for 17 years before moving to Cubao City, Metro Manila. He was not embarrassed to tell me that before he moved to Manila he was “no read, no write”, finishing only “grade one” in elementary and not completing any formal education. Luis, however gained his training in pastry-making, when his cousin hired him to apprentice in his Cubao bakeshop. In retrospect, Luis sees God’s goodness in allowing him to start off as a baker. He worked for his cousin for eight years then moved to the upper-class city of Makati, Metro Manila where he worked from 1975 to 1990. When the Makati bakery closed, it became necessary for Luis to find work abroad. He applied through a Philippine Overseas Employment Administration-endorsed agency.
In 1992, after patiently waiting four years for an overseas position, Luis set out for the island kingdom to work in the palace. As a palace baker, Luis was responsible for making delicious baked delights for the royal family. Over the years Luis gained more valuable experience in baking. His royal employers even sent him to study culinary arts with the Sheraton Hotels. He was mentored by “the best” baker in the region.
Luis’ service through the years is rewarded with many benefits. He earns a handsome salary, accommodation on the palace compounds, one month paid vacation including airfare every year. His employers are extremely generous and kind to him. During their festivals Luis is showered with monetary bonuses and assorted gifts such as jewellery and clothing. They treat him with respect and even respect his Christian faith.
In our time together, Luis tells of when his employers tried to persuade him to forsake his Christian faith. They offered him extra benefits if he would denounce his faith in Jesus Christ. With gentle but firm response, Luis refused their offers. From that time, Luis says, his employers have treated him with “greater respect” and even openly dialogue with him regarding Christianity. They do not restrict his religious activities, including late night Bible studies and prayer meetings outside the palace. They also encourage Luis to share food from the palace with the Filipino congregation on the island, such as the goodies that I indulged in at the Filipino church potluck dinner. There are many different expatriates working at the palace. There are workers from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and India, and Luis’ humble disposition and kindness has won him many “international” friends among his palace coworkers.
Luis is an extremely generous man. Though officially separated from his wife, and is without children, Luis’ life extends back to his homeland, the Philippines, as he continues to support his family. He pays for the tuition fees of his nephews, and nieces, and has invested his resources in property and real estate in order to assist his extended family in the Philippines.
In The Service Of The King Of Kings
It is interesting to note that Luis decided to follow Jesus Christ in the year 2000, during his stay in the island kingdom. He was introduced to Jesus Christ by his countrymen who had been trained in Filipino International Network-initiated evangelism and discipleship seminars (New Life Training Curriculum -- NLTC). After he decided to follow Christ, Luis became consistent in Bible study and became an active member of the Christian community. Luis, himself, has gone through NLTC training. Now he regularly invites his co-workers at the palace to fellowship and worship gatherings with the Filipino Christians.
Though Luis humbly states: “I feel that I don’t give much and I have nothing to contribute, because I am just a simple man, and my English is not very good,” I assured him that his contribution is significant for the building of the Kingdom. I reminded him that his shared baking with the Filipino Christians, his invitation to his friends to learn more about Jesus Christ in church and Bible studies, and his financial support to his relatives in the Philippines are not overlooked by his Heavenly Father.
As we finished our cup of tea and concluded our time together, I opened my New Testament and read to him Hebrews 6:10 “God is not unjust. He will not forget your work and the love that you have shown to him as you have helped his people and as you continue to help them.” He nodded and grinned, his face brightening up with joy. I then prayed for him and his niece and moved from the restaurant to the lobby to take pictures.
My time with Luis and his niece was inspiring. I was challenged and encouraged to continue praying that God would raise up more modern-day Nehemiahs – Filipinos who would serve God, and who would become trustworthy “servants” to modern-day masters, and in so doing demonstrate Christ-likeness to their community.
In retrospect, Luis could see the providence of God in his life. It is amazing to think of how a Filipino boy came from a remote village in the Philippines, was trained to be a baker in a little Cubao-corner bakery, a head baker in Makati, and from there the baker in a king’s service. Now with 33 years of baking experience under his belt, Luis recognizes how God led him from his hometown and providentially brought him to the island kingdom where he is now, and where he has decided to follow and serve the King of Kings. He looks back with understanding at the circumstances God has brought him through, including how he had to wait four years for a reply to his job application and the processing of his documents with the Philippine government. Had he not waited, he may have ended up abroad in a far less favourable job, perhaps in another corner bakeshop, but certainly not in a palace.
It encourages me to see God’s foreknowledge and day to day control in Luis’ life. To think that Luis could have denounced his faith in exchange for more material fortune, and how God used that situation instead to soften his employers’ hearts toward him. It is possible that Luis could have been dismissed and deported for refusing his employers’ offer, as is the reported case of many other expatriate workers, but instead Luis gained his employers’ respect. Certainly Luis is like Nehemiah who gained the favour of the Babylonian king.
I started this story with me tasting Luis’ baking at the Filipino potluck after their worship service, so I will go back to the subject of Luis’ baked goodies. Luis and I met again a couple of months ago, and he left me carrying a bag of banana bread to my hotel room. For two days I feasted on the banana bread from Luis. It was like a gift that kept on giving, because in two days, I still had so much of it that I gave some of it to the Pakistani man who cleaned out my hotel room, and I gave even more of it to Luis’ pastor. Then just before I left that island kingdom Luis came to give me about 10 kilos. of dried dates. He said: “Pastor take these dates home for your wife and family in Canada.” I could not carry all 10 kilos. of dates, so again I gave some away. The banana bread and the dates are an example of how generous Luis is.
To end, let me tell you what Luis once said to me: “Today, the little children I used to feed are princes and princesses. I have been baking for them for 12 years and they are grown up now.” As I look at Luis and his generous service I cannot help but wonder what impact his witness has had on the royal family whom he serves, and on his group of international coworkers and friends. I wonder how God has used Luis to plant seeds of hope and “a gift that keeps on giving” in the lives of those around him. As with the story of Nehemiah, I am certain that only eternity will tell.
How many diaspora Kingdom worrkers are in places where "traditional" missionares cannot go? How many missionaries live in Kings’ palaces? In the homes of the world’s most influential? The Lausanne Movement is committed to motivate, equip and mobilize Kingdom workers such as Luis decribed in this article.
*This entry was taken from: Tira, Sadiri Joy. "In the Service of the King: The Story of a Modern Day Nehemiah." In Scattered: The Filipino Global Presence, eds. L. Pantoja Jr., E., S. Tira & E. Wan, 335-339. Manila, Philippines: LifeChange Publishing Inc., 2004.
**Sadiri Joy Tira (D.Min., D.Miss.) is the LCWE Senior Associate for Diasporas.